Excessive hunger or constant hunger is a condition known as hyperphagia or polyphagia. When a grown adult is always hungry, or has an increase in food requirements, it could be cause for concern. This is especially true if the increase in appetite is unrelated to changes in diet or activity level. Excessive hunger can be a sign of problems such as diabetes, eating disorders or hormonal imbalances.
Growth Spurts and Exercise
Children and teenagers may have larger appetites before and during growth spurts, which is normal. The body is sending hunger signals to ensure that it has enough nutrition to support the growth. An increased level of activity can also cause more hunger pangs, because the body tries to make up for the lost energy.
Hormones play an important role in the daily functioning of the body. Fluctuations or abnormalities in the thyroid hormone or adrenalin hormone can cause hunger pangs. In women, hormone fluctuations are common during pregnancy, which can make them hungry all the time. During pregnancy, nutritional needs also increase, thereby causing more hunger. Women who have Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) may also feel the urge to eat more often.
Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to produce enough insulin, or is unable to efficiently utilise the insulin that is produced. The cells in the body require glucose to function normally. Insulin is essential for converting sugar to glucose and because diabetics have insulin deficiency, the cells are starved of glucose. As a result, the brain gets a signal that the body needs food, which is interpreted as hunger.
Conditions such as Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and bulimia nervosa are characterised by overeating and excessive hunger. People who suffer from these conditions try to use food to fulfil emotional needs. Persons with BED usually overeat to comfort themselves in difficult situations. They often suffer from feelings of guilt and shame, but are unable to control themselves when they eat. Bulimia nervosa is a disorder in which the affected individual binges on food and eats large amounts in one sitting. After this, the person indulges in purging by vomiting, consuming laxatives or by excessive dieting.
Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS)
Prader-Willi Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder and constant hunger is one of its main symptoms. The hunger is ever present, because the part of the brain that control satiety and fullness is impaired. PWS is characterised by other signs such as weak muscles, short stature, learning disabilities and poor motor skills.
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